Delphine Clara Zemp

Clara Zemp is Assistant Professor and head of the Conservation Biology Lab at the university of Neuchâtel. Her research lies at the interface between biodiversity, climate and land use in agriculture-forest frontiers, and aims at guiding biodiversity conservation strategies in the face of global changes. [See reseach focus here.] 

Prior to joining the university of Neuchâtel, she was working at the university of Göttingen in Germany as postdoctoral researcher and scientific coordinator of the Biodiversity Enrichment Experiment in oil palm plantations. This interdisciplinary research platform is part of the largest network of biodiversity experiments worldwide (TreeDivNet) and the Collaborative Research Centre on “Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (Sumatra, Indonesia)” (EFForTS).

During her PhD at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany and the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) in Brazil, she studied interactions between the Amazon forest and climate. After receiving a doctoral degree from the Humboldt University in Berlin in 2016, she was awarded a start-up grant to conduct research on deforestation effects on Amazon forest resilience.



2021 –: Assistant Professor with tenure track in Conservation Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland 

2016 – 2020: Postdoc & Lecturer, Biodiversity, Macroecology & Biogeography, University of Göttingen, Germany

2016: Postdoc, Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany


Professional services

Member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Swiss Biodiversity Forum (Swiss Academy of Sciences)

Co-speaker of the Swiss Young Network for Science Policy and Diplomacy (Swiss Young Academy)

Member of the scientific committee of the TRAILS programm in Malaysia [Innovative Planting Designs for Wildlife, Climate and Livelihoods

Co-speaker of the interdisciplinary Master in Biodiversity Conservation (University Neuchâtel)



2015: PhD thesis “Vegetation-rainfall feedbacks in the Amazon region: a complex network approach”, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany 

2012: Engineer degree (equivalent MSc) in Agronomy / Geomatics, National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse, France

2008: Classes préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles (equivalent BSc) in Natural Sciences
École Nationale de Chimie Physique Biologie, Paris, France


Research stay abroad 

Vietnam (undergraduate internship, 6 months), Norway (undergraduate internship, 6 months), Brazil (PhD, 6 months), Indonesia (postdoc, 2 years)


Awards and distinctions

2015: Merian Award from the Society of Tropical Ecology (GTÖ)
2014: Editor's Choice Article for her article published in Europhysics Letter
2013: Xavier Bernard foundation Award from the French Academy of Agriculture


In the media

Mentions related to the article Zemp et al. Nature, 2023 ​: 

‘Tree islands’ give oil-palm plantation a biodiversity boost (nature.com) - Nature Podcast 

Tree islands boost biodiversity in oil-palm plantations (nature.com) - Nature NEWS AND VIEWS

‘Tree islands’ boost diversity in oil palm plantations, study finds (mongabay.com) 

Islands of trees in oil palm plantations found to increase biodiversity without decreasing yields (phys.org)

Palmölplantagen: Die Rückkehr der Arten - Spektrum der Wissenschaft

Ramener de la diversité dans des monocultures de palmiers à huile, c’est possible - Le Temps  

Restaurer la biodiversité dans les plantations de palmiers à huile grâce à lʹagroforesterie (rts.ch)

Other mentions in news and blogs

Un Master en conservation de la biodiversité à Neuchâtel (rts.ch)

Phänomen Amazonas-Regenwald: Droht der Kollaps? (klima:neutral - YouTube)

Oil palm plantations in Sumatran watershed worsen flooding in communities (mongabay.com)

Wie kann man den Bösewicht Palmöl naturfreundlicher machen? (WDR Radio) 

Wie kann man den Palmölanbau ökologischer und sozialer machen?  (WDR Radio) 

Fewer trees mean less rain for the Amazon basin : Research Highlights (nature.com)

Intact forests crucial to Amazon ecosystem resilience, stable climate (mongabay.com)

Adapt to a changing Amazon now, or pay far higher price later, experts say (mongabay.com)

Biologische Vielfalt kann den Amazonasregenwald vor dem Klimakollaps retten – wenn wir sie lassen (biodiversity.de)

Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon (pik-potsdam.de) [see also Science TimesScienceDailyDW ]


Selected publications

Full publication list available at ‪Google Scholar‬.

Zemp, D. C., Guerrero-Ramirez N. et al. (2023) Tree islands enhance biodiversity and functioning in oil palm landscapes, Nature, 618, 316–321

Montoya-Sánchez, V. M., Kreft, H., Arimond, I., Ballauff, J., Berkelmann, D., Brambach, F., Daniel., R, Hines, J., Hölscher, D., Irawan, B., Krause, A., Polle, A., Potapov, A., Sachsenmaier, L., Scheu, S., Sundawati, L., Tscharntke, T., *Zemp, D. C. & *Ramirez, N. R. G. (2023). Landscape heterogeneity and soil biota are central to multi-taxa diversity for oil palm landscape restoration. Commun Earth Environ 4, 209 (*Joint senior authors)

Zemp, D.C & Gérard, A. Hölscher, D, Ammer, C., Irawan, B., Sundawati, L., Teuscher, M., Kreft, H. (2019) Tree performance in a biodiversity enrichment experiment in an oil palm landscapeJournal of Applied Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365‐2664.13460.

Zemp, D.C, Ehbrecht, M., Seidel,D., Ammer, C., Craven, D., Erkelenz, J., Irawan, B., Sundawati, L., Hölscher, D., Kreft, H. (2019) Mixed-species tree plantings enhance structural complexity in oil palm plantationsAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 283, 106564.

Zemp, D. C., Schleussner, C.F., Barbosa, M. J., and Rammig, A. (2017) Deforestation effects on Amazon forest resilience. Geophysical Research Letters, 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL072955. 

Zemp, D. C., Schleussner, C.F., Barbosa, M. J., Hirota, M., Montade, V., Sampaio, G., Staal, A., Wang-Erlandsson, L. and Rammig, A. (2017) Self-amplied Amazon forest loss due to atmosphere-vegetation feedbacksNature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms14681.



Delphine Clara Zemp

Head of laboratory

Assistant professor 


+41 32 718 31 14

Office A013

Rue Emile-Argand 11
2000 Neuchâtel